After a nine-win regular season, UCLA will look to tie a program record in wins at the Sun Bowl on Dec. 30 against Pitt in El Paso.
The Bruins have appeared in the Sun Bowl four previous times, most recently in 2013 when they beat Virginia Tech 42-12. UCLA is 3-1 in the Sun Bowl.
The Bruins are set to make their first appearance in a bowl game since 2017. UCLA was invited to the Holiday Bowl last season for its first bowl in the Chip Kelly era, but the game was canceled at the last minute after several COVID-19 infections.
UCLA went 9-3 in the regular season, with wins over then-No. 11 Utah and No. 15 Washington. It finished the season ranked No. 18 in the College Football Playoff rankings and No. 18 in the AP Top 25 poll.
The Bruins were 8-1 entering the final three games of the season, with the Pac-12 title and a possible College Football Playoff bid available. But UCLA was upset by Arizona on Nov. 12, and then lost an epic crosstown rivalry match to USC the following week.
UCLA has faced Pitt 14 times in its history and is 9-5 against the school. Their most recent matchup was in 1972.
The Bruins finished tied for fifth in the Pac-12. Their bowl matchup was likely impacted by USC’s loss to Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game, which knocked USC out of playoff contention and shuffled the order of the Pac-12’s bowl bids. The Las Vegas Bowl — which chose Oregon State and Florida — had also been a possible destination for the Bruins.
A win at Cal to finish the season gave UCLA nine wins — its first nine-win season since 2014. A Bruins’ victory in the bowl game would tie the program record for most wins in a season. UCLA has won 10 games nine different times.
“It’s not something that’s just regularly done around here, getting nine wins,” Thompson-Robinson said after the Cal game. “We worked really hard. I’ve been here for a very long time and to see the growth and all the things that go into it is really special.”
It is not immediately clear if there will be UCLA players opting out of the bowl game. The team is expected to hold a media availability later on Sunday.
Thompson-Robinson said after the Cal game that his availability for the bowl game was “to be determined,” though the Las Vegas Bowl would have been a tough decision. Thompson-Robinson starred at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas.
“Obviously I want to go back and play in front of my hometown, and to be able to get the opportunity to do that would be very special,” Thompson-Robinson said.
Instead, Thompson-Robinson and the Bruins will be in El Paso on Dec. 30.